Entomology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version

March 2007


Published in Journal of Forensic Sciences 52:2 (March 2007), pp. 453-458; doi 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2007.00385.x Copyright © 2007 by American Academy of Forensic Sciences; published by Blackwell Publishing. Used by permission. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com


When insect evidence is obtained during autopsy, forensic entomologists make decisions regarding the effects of low-temperature (−1°C to 4°C) storage of the body and associated insects when estimating the post-mortem interval (PMI). To determine the effects of storage in a morgue cooler on the temperature of maggot masses, temperatures inside and outside of body bags containing a human cadaver and porcine cadavers (seven replicates) were measured during storage. Temperatures remained significantly higher (p < 0.05) inside of the body bags relative to the cooler, and remained at levels sufficient for maggot feeding and development. If the assumption that no insect development takes place during preautopsy refrigeration is made, potential error rates in PMI estimation of 8.6–12.8% occur. The potential for blow fly larvae to undergo significant development while being stored in the morgue is a possibility that forensic entomologists should consider during an investigation involving samples collected from autopsy. Case and experimental evidence also demonstrate that substantial tissue loss can occur from maggot feeding during morgue storage.

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